Magazine article Soundings

Three Nature Poems

Magazine article Soundings

Three Nature Poems

Article excerpt

Contemporary poetry is increasingly a site where the brutality of neoliberal politics is being contested. The three poems below illustrate the ways in which the culture-nature relationship is being rewritten. Nature in these poems is not separate from human experience; it is not a site for romantic contemplation or rural escape. Here, our relationship with the planet is written as emotionally and politically connected to the way we live on a daily basis. These poems are charged with pain, both in their content and their form.

Clare Pollard's powerful 'The Oil' is a prose poem. On the page its thick shape mimics an oil slick. Its images grow in a rhythmic force, reflecting the increasing death grip of the ecological disaster.

In James Goodman's 'Slash Poem' endangered animals are separated from mundane and aspirational consumer items by a slash. Here, the slash functions to reflect lacerating capitalist policies as species are cut in order to make room for the market and its attendant lifestyle choices. The poignancy of the species' vulnerability reaches its climax in the last line as 'the best before date' reveals the planet's own expiration.

'Greening' by Kate Potts imagines a future where we experience 'exaggerated seasonal die-off'. Like the other two poems, the power of 'Greening' comes from its easily locatable everyday descriptions: vitamin C, jogging, bunting. The recurring 'we' draws us into a social connection with the planet where drowsy sex, city parks and stockpiles are inextricably linked to shrinking wheatfields and the crisis of climate change.

In these poems ecological emergency is part of daily life; it's Thomas Tank Engine pencil cases, Youtube videos and lager drinking. These poems are angry but they are also suffused with a heartbreaking bewilderment: 'what do we do now?' they seem to ask.

Alison Winch

'The Oil' is published in Changeling (Bloodaxe, 2011). 'Greening' is published in the antholog , Drifting Down the Lane (Moon and Mountain, 2013).

The Oil

is all stealth at first, hushed and lovely, a soft shifting shape in the deep; an expensive silk scarf loosed from a throat, groomed hair, ink scrawling an autograph, signing a pre-nup. In the aquamarine the plush gush has a caviar gleam, the colour of sultry night when we sprawl on our decks near Cannes or Mustique, hear liquidity lapping the hulls of our yachts. But then, it is suddenly not - it's morning and noticed and cameras are focused, and now the leak's writhing like shoals of suffering fish; like death in gulls' guts or bad debt. It's the spill of the ash from the second tower; a disgorging Helmand bomb; smoke's pour through the Underground. And we say concern ... heartbroken ... keenly aware ... and besides, we've the cure - we have solvent, explosives, concrete, a saw. But we know, don't we? We know it's not true - we know that we can't put it back. What mortal could catch such a god - such omnipotent, muscular black? And see, see: how the slick spreads quick as denial or deforestation or AIDS or Al-Qaeda; as blood from the weapons expert's wrist; as blood's foul race across Neda's face in that YouTube clip

Clare Pollard

Clare was born in Bolton in 1978 and lives in London. Her fourth collection Changeling (2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and her latest book is a translation of Ovid's Heroines (2013).

Slash poem

Clouded Leopard/car battery

Giant Salamander/stainless steel cafetiere

Military Orchid/5mm masonry bit

Scatter of Military Orchids/full set of masonry bits

Nine-banded Armadillo/6 of Michelob

Echidna/sun-sharp pint of Amstel

Alligator Mississipiensis/Thomas the Tank Engine pencil case

Beluga/off-peak day-return to London St Pancras

Kihansi Spray Toad/withered bootlace

Mekong Giant Salmon Carp/lime green polo shirt

North Atlantic Cod/fake Louis Vuitton handbag

Emerald-chinned Hummingbird/best before end Aug 12

Eurasian Badger/hand-held shaving mirror

Lake Victoria Deepwater Catfish/Range Rover Evoque

Malabar Civet/four kitchen scourers

Persian Sturgeon/use by 01/11/11

James Goodman

James's first collection, Claytown is published by Salt (2011). …

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